A ‘Recipe’ for Successful 2013 Resolutions
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on December 28th, 2012

Some interesting analysis of New Year’s Resolutions from statisticbrain.com:

The Top 10 Resolutions for 2012 were:

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Get Organized
  3. Spend Less . . . Save More
  4. Enjoy Life More Fully
  5. Stay Fit and Healthy (not always the same thing)
  6. Learn Something Exciting
  7. Quit Smoking
  8. Help Others Reach Their Dreams
  9. Fall in Love
  10. Spend More Time with Family

And some revelatory statistics about who makes resolutions and their success rate:

  • * 62% of Americans make resolutions
  • * 38% never do.
  • * 8% of all resolutions made are achieved.
  • * 39% of 20-something resolvers report success, while – ouch – only 14% of 50+ resolvers do.
  • * However people who explicitly make a New Year’s Resolution are 10x more likely to achieve a goal than those who explicitly do not. (Huh?)
  • * Self-improvement or learning resolutions are the most frequently achieved. Relationship resolutions rank lowest in success.


  1. It’s better to resolve than not.
  2. Resolving to improve yourself or learn something improves your odds.
  3. Those who are 50+ (I’ve never taken a poll, but suspect the median age of those who follow this blog is probably around 50) probably need a more examined, strategic approach.

So for my final blog of 2012, some suggestions for making—and achieving—2013 resolutions. Naturally my advice will focus on improving your swimming–which can not only contribute to #s 1-4-5-6 in the list above, but also aid any self-improvement project.

The Resolution ‘Recipe’

Small is beautiful.   The keystone of the TI Method is Kaizen, the philosophy of Continuous Improvement. Kaizen is rooted in the Taoist proverb: “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” Kaizen is explicitly about incremental change—often so subtle you can’t sense it, yet never doubt it—pursued daily.

  • * Some psychologists believe willpower is a limited resource: The more of it you require to make one change, the less you’ll have left over to make others. Or to sustain the first.
  • * Researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer asked hundreds of resolvers to keep diaries. After reviewing their entries, they concluded: “Small wins, achieved regularly, contribute much more to happiness than occasional ambitious accomplishments. The satisfaction produced by a greater achievement isn’t proportionately larger nor longer-lasting.”
  • * Ambitious goals often lead to procrastination, while small ones are less daunting.

Make modest resolutions, and renew them throughout the year, rather than set ambitious goals now.

Focus on process. This is a central precept in work by George Leonard on Mastery, Mihalyi Csikszentmihaly on Flow, Anders Ericsson and colleagues on Excellence and Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code. In the simplest of swimming terms, it means stop focusing on getting to the other end and focus instead on being conscious of each stroke along the way. Before long you’ll become aware of ‘consequential nanoseconds’ within each stroke.

Embrace the imperfect. Don’t wait for any particular condition to be fulfilled or to feel strongly motivated. Emotional states, like motivation, are too often transitory. And the supposition that you require motivation undermines action.  The belief that you need to feel motivated, or need the perfect situation, before taking action is the biggest barrier to actually getting things done.

Imperfection is indeed, the natural state of the Human Swimmer and means we have limitless Kaizen potential.

Japanese psychologist Shomo Morita writes: “Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect or a procrastinator or unhealthy or lazy or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself.”

Be happier today. New York Times health writer Jane Brody wrote in her article Changing our Tune on Exercise  “For decades, [we’ve been] bombarded with messages that regular exercise is necessary to lose weight, prevent serious disease and foster healthy aging. And most people say they value these goals. Yet a vast majority of Americans — two-thirds of whom are overweight or obese — have thus far failed to swallow the ‘exercise pill.’ She described new research that says people are far more likely to exercise when they anticipate it will make today a better day, than for some possible future benefit. “People who exercise for quality of life exercise more over the course of a year than those who value exercise for its health benefits.”  

I ride a bike for every feasible errand between April and November, neither to be green, nor to be fit. I do it because it makes me feel 15 again (I’m 61) and because, on a bike, I can feel a breeze on my face, smell the flowers and hear birdsong—none of which happens in a car. My swimming motivation is essentially the same. While I do swim in meets and and open water races—and am a very competitive person at heart—and I hope to be mobile, agile and graceful at 85—my main reason for swimming is I feel fantastic, physically and mentally, during and after.

Final Word

Any of these precepts could be resolutions themselves. Next week I’ll share my resolutions for 2012 and how they worked out, and those I’ve set for 2013 and how I’ve been guided by these precepts in setiing – and re-setting — them.

Until then, what will your swimming goals be for 2013? If you’d like to share, I’ve set up a special thread What are your 2013 Swim Resolutions? on the TI Discussion Forum.

12 Responses to “A ‘Recipe’ for Successful 2013 Resolutions”

  1. Anne Etra says:

    Hi Terry,

    For some reason I was unable to log into your forum, so here you go:

    1. Embrace the positive.
    We have a choice, each moment, to be positive and look brightly, as opposed to thinking dark and negative.

    2. Be playful.
    One of the joys of aging is recognizing our mortality, and the importance of health, family, friends, work, community, and contribution. But not every moment is so serious. Let little things go; have fun!

    3. Be grateful.
    See #2 for things to be grateful for. Especially waking up each day, breathing, and feeling good.

    4. Honor your aging body.
    Know that at age 53 you are not 23. This is a good thing. Rest and recovery become more important to your fitness regiment, and should be seen as an integral, wonderful part of it. On energetic days do your ‘outer’ exercise and swim, bike, run, strength train, play tennis whatever, and on your ‘inner’ days take it down…go for an easy amble, do some tai chi, gentle yoga, relax, recharge.

    5. My swimming resolution?
    * Work on the evenness of my elbows coming out of the water. One side feels much more natural and in better form than the other.
    * Pay more attention to my kick. I don’t always ‘feel’ it as well as I think I should, but maybe that’s a good thing.
    * Be more economical with my breathing. My 86-year-old dad (who by the way swam in the 1940s for Columbia and the New York Athletic Club and still looks like an elegant fish when he swims) tells me my breathing movement needs work. Come to think of it his existence is another reason to be grateful.
    * Learn to do a flip turn. It’s gotta be more efficient for pool swimming. Plus it looks cool.

    Happy New Year!
    Anne Etra

  2. div says:

    I am 85 and since learning about TI- using the CD and taking a few lessons from Massarati I have not only improved my swimming but enjoy it more. I am looking forward to swimming more often next year.

  3. Gerry Flynn says:

    Hi Terry,

    the only thing I wish to say at this time is thank you very much for the encouragement


  4. caty franco says:

    Thanks Terry for your words, you encourege me to keep on swimming and enjoying life, happy 2013 for you too.


  5. Bll Brennan says:

    Terry, perfect timing, as I was thinking of wha I want to accomplish yesterday.

    In addition to all of the excellent thoughts you and ohers have shared, I like to think about what I want my life to be like in 10 years; spiritual, mental, physical, social and financial. Then I am ready to set my goals for the next year.

    Here’s to a fabulous 2013.

    Bill Brennan

  6. Ted Newill says:

    Thanks for the thought provoking post. Embracing the imperfect is important. And, I like Anne Etra’s comment on being grateful. My wife and I say our “gratitudes” before going to bed. When you start listing everything you should be grateful for, you realize how lucky you are. This can bring you out of a funk on a cloudy day.

    My swimming goal is to do at least 3 open water swims in 2013.
    Happy New Year!

  7. Ted
    I see you’ve already shared your resolutions on the Forum. Registering and participating feels like a worthy resolve already accomplished. Congratulations.
    Gratitudes before bed is a great practice.

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  9. Mike LoRu says:

    These are great thoughts for the new year. Not only for swimming but for everyday.

  10. Steve46 says:

    Hi Terry, this makes real interesting reading, thanks. Every year I set my self resolutions and every year I fail, so this year the resolution I make will be to be a better (not necessarily faster) TI crawl swimmer than I am today! “Terminal Mediocrety” summed up my swimming for nearly 30 yrs but the last 15 months have been amazing and I now go to the pool 3-4 times most weeks and can honestly say I’d go every day if I could. Thanks again for TI, it’s given me more than just the opportunity and potential to improve, much more!


  11. Steve
    Those are lovely and affirming words to read. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Noel says:

    Great thoughts Terry. I’m 51 and completed my first 1500m swim 2 weeks are studying your website and your DVD Freestyle in 10 lessons. Is my stroke perfect. No, far from it. Kaizen will help me over the course of this year. Thank you very much for making this a possibility. I never thought I could ever swim so far with such ease in such a short timeframe.

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